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John Muldoon: We have got absolutely nothing to fear going back to Kingsholm

Still being in with a chance of making the Champions Cup for next season has softened the blow somewhat, but we are all disappointed not to have finished in sixth place this season.

Unfortunately, last weekend we left ourselves with too much to do. Missed tackles and errors in the first half cost us and conceding easy points like we did against a top-four team will always make it difficult to win games.

In those recent games against top-four sides, we've given ourselves a lot do after poor starts and you can't do that against a good team like Ospreys.

It's a little bit disappointing the way things have gone in the last couple of weeks, but on the flip side some of our play and decision-making and momentum we built up after the break was very good. It just looked like we would get there but the clock beat us.

Lately, we have tended to play into the wind in the first half and if you start poorly it can leave you a lot to do after that.

We need to be smarter and not make things that difficult for ourselves. It was exactly the same a couple of weeks ago against Glasgow. A few mistakes and we shipped three tries in seven minutes. Good teams will punish those errors.

But we can take positives from last weekend too. Jack Carty had a real influence on how we played. He was 100 per cent in his kicking and they weren't all easy kicks either.


We scored 20 unanswered points which was good to see. We got another try off our maul, which has been a huge weapon for us this year, and after a troublesome first half we got our scrum back in order after we changed it up a bit.

While defeat soured the day a bit, I was absolutely delighted to see Swifty make it back to play for Connacht again. He got injured about three months ago and he was told his recovery time was four or five months. The chances of him playing for Connacht again were minimal. He worked extremely hard and was dedicated in everything he did. It epitomises the man we all love and he's been like that for the 15 years he's been here.

The team was announced on Thursday and just moments before I asked him if he was in. And when he said he was on the bench, I was absolutely thrilled for him. He has worked so hard to get back and he deserved his send-off at the Sportsground.

I know his late dad, Jim, was really looking forward to him getting on the pitch for one last time, so I'm sure it was a very emotional day for him. Swifty is an absolute legend, and that title is bandied about a bit, but it's fitting in this case. I'll be sad to see him go.

Other lads leaving like Miah, Mick Kearney, Sean Henry, Willie Faloon, Mata and Mils have all come in and made an impact. They have brought plenty to the table and we're sad to see them go too. We have huge appreciation for what they have done for us.

Dan is leaving too after 15 years, we'll miss him massively, especially the forwards. I have massive respect for Dan, he has always been tough on us, but he has always been fair too. He has pushed us and motivated us really well.

It's sad for Connacht that he's leaving, but it's a great opportunity for him to pursue something else and test himself. I had a good chat with Gregor Townsend and Aly Kellock at the Pro12 awards night and they are looking forward to him joining. They actively identified who they wanted and went straight for him. That's a real compliment to Dan.

It's been sad to see some great Connacht players leaving, but another home game would be great way to send them off on a high.

And while Saturday had that end-of-year feeling to it, we are still in the thick of a battle, with Gloucester at Kingsholm again on Sunday.

We played them a few weeks back and lost out 14-7: we were very disappointed with that. They pride themselves on having a good pack, and they have definitely got some dangerous back-field players too.

Up front, John Afoa will be well known to Connacht fans and Richard Hibbard will be dangerous too. But thankfully from our point of view, Matt Kvesic, who was man of the match the last day, is out. He's a big loss for them in the back-row.

But we have nothing to fear going over to Kingsholm. We didn't play to our best a couple of weeks ago and they just about got on top. We'd hope that if we play better, take last week's second-half form over 80 minutes, then we'll give ourselves a great chance.

It's the end of the year, both teams are patching a few lads together and anything can happen. It's been a long season for everyone, but we are happy to be still in the mix.

Sunday's winners go on to meet the Top 14's seventh-placed team, but there is a bit to play for there yet too. I'm sure if we get through Gloucester a lot of Connacht fans would love to see Racing Metro or Montpellier come to the Sportsground. It'd be a great way to end the season.

Looking back at our goals recently, it was good to see that we have achieved a lot of them, but our main target was Champions Cup rugby. We might have to cut a couple of weeks off our holidays, but we are still in with a chance and we have plenty to fight for.

Irish Independent